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Beetles, can they host mind-altering/other dangerous parasites?


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Watching the newest Joe Rogan podcast, he talks to Robert Sapolsky. Robert is a professor of neurology, biology, and neurological sciences. In the podcast, they talk about cats that can host a mind altering parasite. He says that the parasite Toxoplasma gondii found in infected cat feces could cause mental illness in humans. However, there are some articles that say this parasite does not cause mental illness. It is known to infect 50% of people worldwide.This makes me wonder, could different large Dynastinae and Lucanidae hold a parasite like this? They are strong and sometimes leave scratches when you handle them, could different parasites enter your bloodstream this way? I never really thought in depth about this until now.

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That is an interesting concept.. I wouldn't doubt it, with anything wild.. there certainly could be the potential for parasites to be present. Also, I am not sure I would believe this much about the mental illness...or really what type of illness? Mental illness is so prevalent. I would probably try to look into scholarly articles for this topic, if there are any somewhere.

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I would love to see a study on that... People are impulsive in general and a claim like schizophrenia? There must be some sort of evidence if so. I am having a very difficult time believing that but interesting..

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Same here, interesting topic regardless. I'll have to give her book a read! Not related but I know for a fact that the micro bacteria in our guts affects our mood and thought process. When I use to be vegan, I had horrible panic attacks and anxiety every day for about a year. After I switched back to animal protein, it went away. My friend is a vegan and still deals with anxiety and panic attacks every day and cannot leave his house. Some people just need animal protein to survive and some can thrive off plant based diets with no problems!

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The parasite in question, Toxoplasma gondii, is specific to warm-blooded vertebrates in all of its life stages. In order to infect a host, the microbe must be ingested - transmission through the skin is not possible. In most humans and other species, infection with T. gondii doesn't even cause illness, and when it does, the symptoms are generally mild. Beetles are not vectors of these types of unicellular parasites, and I am quite confident that the possibility of them transmitting anything to humans via handling is effectively zero.

If you are handling soil and composts regularly however, you might want to at least consider making sure that your tetanus vaccination is up to date, as the bacteria that cause it tend to be found in such materials. The chances of contracting tetanus in the US is quite slim (only around 50 cases in the US each year, mostly in people that weren't vaccinated as children), but anyone prone to frequently getting small cuts, scratches and punctures in their skin (gardeners, farm workers, etc.) is at an increased risk. People have gotten tetanus just from being pricked by rose thorns or scratched by barbed wire. If you are handling anything that may possibly be contaminated with horse manure, the risk is considerably higher, since horses are a major reservoir for the bacterium (Clostridium tetani). The feces of any mammal can harbor the bacterium, however, and its spores can survive in a dormant state in the environment for quite a long time. In any case, if you've been vaccinated against tetanus (like the vast majority of people in the developed world have), you're probably already immune. The main risk is to those who never received the primary childhood series of shots, or people who are over 60 and have never gotten any booster shots since.

Lastly, I should point out that I've been handling beetles (and soils, composts, decayed leaves and rotten wood) for well over 30 years now, and so far, no infections related to that. Just wearing gloves and washing your hands a lot will likely keep you out of most trouble, and if you do happen to get a cut or puncture that's deep enough to draw blood, clean it promptly to minimize any potential for infection.

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  • 4 weeks later...

If you are asking if there is any possibility of commonly kept "pet" type beetles such as Dynastinae, Cetoniinae, and Lucanidae transmitting disease-causing bacteria or other harmful microbes to humans via handling, then no, it's extremely unlikely. If this were the case, it surely would have been documented in medical literature by now, especially in Asia, where millions of wild-collected beetles, including exotic ones, have been handled by hobbyists for decades.

The vast majority of insects capable of transmitting pathogenic diseases to humans are blood-feeding parasites, such as mosquitoes, flies, fleas, and certain hemipterans. Mosquitoes are unquestionably the most important insect vector of human disease on the planet, though mainly in the tropics, and mainly because of malaria. Certain families of flies also have the potential to spread harmful bacteria around, simply because of their association with dirty environments.

Most insects are incredibly clean as compared to many other animals. They aren't covered in bacteria like many mammals are, for example. An insect's exoskeleton simply isn't conducive to the growth of bacteria and most other microbes.

The main point to remember, is that microbes exist everywhere in the environment, and of the estimated ONE TRILLION kinds that exist on Earth, only an incredibly small number of them cause disease, and those that do tend to be rather species-specific. We all ingest, inhale, and touch countless billions of bacteria, fungi and other microbes every day, with no harmful effect.

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You can develop an allergy to practically anything. For example, peanuts are harmless to most people, but just a single one can provoke a major reaction for some. Some people have very little (if any) reaction to poison ivy, while others have severe reactions. Some people are allergic to certain antibiotics. It all depends on how your individual immune system handles foreign materials.

As for insect-related allergies, this mainly involves reactions (usually localized, and less often systemic) to various substances that are injected via stings (venom) or bites (saliva), although I have heard of some people being sensitive to dander from roaches and dust mites, or hairs from tarantulas, or scales from Lepidoptera. I've reared saturniid moths (and also silkworm moths) at various times, and sometimes had some temporary nasal irritation (though nothing serious) from the scales, which in the case of moths, tend to get airborne very easily and stay suspended in the air for a while.

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